Steel River musical about family, acceptance, and enduring spirit of love
Please check out this review of Steel River Playhouse’s current musical La Cage aux Folles from guest blogger Parker Blaney. The original 1983 Broadway production of La Cage aux Folles won 6 Tony Awards and it has since won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice, the only musical to do so, proving again and again that this story lives on. Thanks for covering it for us, Park!
What a delight it was to see Pottstown’s own Steel River Playhouse production of La Cage aux Folles. I have to confess I usually don’t enjoy musical plays, but this one delightfully breaks all boundaries, in more ways than one! At its heart, this is a story about family, what it means to grow up and thrive in a community of love, and what happens when two families with different ideals are thrust together as the result of young, passionate love.
Within the musical, Albin, a buxom drag queen, played by the wonderful Kirk Lawrence, is the star attraction of a show called La Cage aux Folles; he is also the star of the musical at Steel River. Lawrence’s voice ranges from the purr of a cat that builds to the roar of a wounded, suffering lioness. Georges, played by Robb Hutter, is his husband, and the manager of the show. He tugs at our hearts with his tender ballads of longing, recounting his and Albin’s youthful love.
Their son—who is the biological son of Georges from a previous relationship with a woman—is Jean-Michel, played by David Landstrom. Jean-Michel has fallen desperately in love and wishes to marry Anne, played by Josephine Patane, the daughter of a local conservative politician. That’s where the trouble begins.
Anne’s family demands to meet Jean-Michel’s family, and Jean-Michel doesn’t want Albin, effectively his mother for many years, to meet them out of fear the conservative politician will not only disapprove of their nontraditional family but also discover that Albin is the host of La Cage aux Folles, and thus refuse to give his consent. It is heartbreaking to see the dear, conflicted, vulnerable Albin react to Jean-Michel’s denial of him. This is the heart of the play—will the family defend its members as they are, or hide them away as if they are a kind of social leper? Well, suffice to say that events often run ahead of the best made plans, much to the delight of the audience. The conflict and its resolution are unexpected and yet believable.
Also a show-stopper is the performance of Adam Newborn, who plays Jacob, the “maid.” His mad dashes onto the stage and his frolicking, wild energy take over his scenes. He is simply drop-dead funny. Newborn’s sense of comedic timing is impeccable and seamless. I had the sense I was watching someone special, someone I will see again in a much larger role in the future. Indeed, all of the actors’ performances felt like they came out of a big-time production and not regional theater. Regional theater can sometimes feel slightly amateurish to me, but not here at the Steel River Playhouse.
I can’t remember the last time I felt as wide a range of emotions as I did watching La Cage aux Folles. There are some rather mild sexual situations, but really the meaning of the play, the tension of being who we are versus what society might demand of us, is timeless. Its message never grows old and never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Please, there are only a few more performances of La Cage Aux Folles at Steel River Playhouse in downtown Pottstown. Get your tickets now for an abiding message about love, family and the soaring, enduring spirit of human relationships.
La Cage aux Folles runs for one more weekend, through June 23rd, with performances on Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $15 to $26, with special cabaret seating at $68 for a table for 2 (includes complimentary beverages and snacks). Tickets are available online at http://www.steelriver.org or by calling the box office at 610.970.1199, or at the door when available. Steel River Playhouse is located at 245 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464.